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SPAIN: Its regions. A poem by Stephen Schwartz



Spain is a land of regions, and some foreigners become passionately attached to one of them., so passionately that a quiet discussion with them is difficult.. Like the majority of Hispanists. I contemplate the whole of the IberoAmerican world, with a special emphasis on the great Castilian tradition. I know Catalonia well, and I used to speak Catalan fluently, since I studied in Barcelona under Pompeu Fabra, being one of his few surviving students. I have traveled all over Spain. I knew the Basque provinces before the civil war, when it was generally quiet. Things have certainly changed. I know Andalusia, the target of the scorn of Emilia Pardo Bazám, a Galician writer of whom I have made a special. study. The same Andalusia was the object of the affection of the Argentine writer Carlos Reyles, author of The Enchantment of Seville (El embrujo de Sevilla). WAIS has its regional lovers: Christopher Jones for the Basque country, John Heelan for Andalusia, and Stephen Schwartz for Catalonia.

To show how passionate this relationship becomes, I quote a poem Stephen Schwartz wrote in 1992 on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Catalan leader Andreu Nin. It revives the passions of the Spanish civil war and the mystery of his disappearance. In the monumental The Spanish Civil War, Burnett Bolloten devotes pages (pp 506ff) to his death, which involved,treachery, deceit and forgery. A shorter account may be found in Hugh Thomas, also called The Spanish Civil War. The mystery of Nin`s death aroused a passion which explains the emotion of the tribute to him by Stephen Schwartz:

The Catalan language makes the tongue a flower
And the joy of speaking it is limitless;
When the old women in Barcelona’s museums
And theatres understand and answer me
As if I, too, were Catalan, one of theirs,
Born in the sight of these Gothic palaces
I feel like embracing and kissing them
Like unknown relatives, or forgotten lovers.
Andreu Nin was a revolutionary
And Catalan writer, translator of Russian novels.
On February 4, 1992,
The 100th anniversary of his birth
I taped a red rose to the stone wall
Beneath the plaque marking the place he vanished
In the terrible year 1937
In the city I so love, my Barcino.
It was evening. A few people stopped to watch
And I ventured into the Catalan I hardly know
To say: "He was one of you, but a brother to all
Those who love language, and liberty.
Remember him, as you walk along the Rambla,
If only for a moment, remember him:
Andreu Nin i Perez, who died for us --
And sing La Santa Espina, and Els Segadors!"

RH: Russian novels, red rose, the revolutionary song Els Segadors (The Harvesters). We have discussed the surprising friendship`between García Lorca and the fascist José Antonio Primo de Rivera. I wonder if the study of Andreu Nin will yield any surprises?

Ronald Hilton - 7/2/03


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